Seven students from the Great Bay Community College Hospitality Club recently returned from New Orleans where they spent time with students and staff at Café Reconcile, a nonprofit restaurant and event center that helps at risk youth.

Open for business since 2000, Café Reconcile teaches life skills to young people (ages 16 t0 22) from severely at risk communities through a job training program in the hospitality industry. Proceeds from events held at the cafe go directly towards funding the facility, equipment, staffing and food making the venue free for any at risk youth who participates.

Participating student and Club President Kait Short said the trip to New Orleans provided her and other students with a unique opportunity.

“Especially in light of current events, the opportunity we had to exchange stories and experiences with Café Reconcile’s students and staff also helped us feel connected to otherwise distant issues,” she said. “The way that they are working to overcome such adversity is incredibly inspiring, and we took that determination and desire for change back to NH with us.”

Describing the trip as “funfilled and busy” ferry rides on the Mississippi River, long strolls on Bourbon Street and a muddy side trip to Jazzfest, Club Secretary Laura Johnson echoed Short’s sentiments. “The highlight of the trip by far was meeting the students and staff at Café Reconcile,” she said.

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The experience also provided students with a real world experience with practical benefits. Club Treasurer Katti Mowers said she learned a lot planning the trip, as she noted she worked with a limited budget and overcame challenging logistics. “This was a great learning experience, because I was able to hurdle all of the obstacle, as I would need to in my future as an event planner,” she added.

Short agreed and added, “The process of organizing the trip to New Orleans gave me a unique learning experience that I can apply in my future career as an event coordinator of community or corporate events.”

In reflecting on her two years in the Hospitality Management program itself, Short said it has helped to open doors she does not think would have been possible at a four-year university.

“As a 25 year old student working fulltime, I need a flexible schedule,” she said. “Great Bay has allowed me to earn my degree and real-life industry experience without putting my life on hold.”

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Dawn Comito, Great Bay’s Hospitality Management Department Chair and Club Advisor, applauded club members, who volunteered more than 700 hours in the community over an entire year, including assisting the United Way and Strawbery Banke, to fund the trip. In previous years, they have attended professional conferences in Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas.

“In addition to fundraising, the trip would not have been possible however without the many hospitality business and education partners who acted as sponsors, including Portsmouth Brewery, Atlantic Hospitality Group and The Portsmouth Spa,” she said. “The students are very grateful.”

Participating students included Kait Short, Dover; Laura Johnson, Derry; Jessie LaFleur, Candia; Matt Joyal, Farmington; Amanda Doyle, Barrington; Michelle Zannini, Berwick, Maine; and Katti Mowers, Epping.

About the Hospitality Management Program

Great Bay Community College currently offers an Associate in Science Degree in Hospitality Management offering students two concentration options to choose from. The Hospitality Management – Direct Career option is recommended for students who plan to begin their career immediately after graduation from Great Bay. The Hospitality Management University Transfer option, developed in consultation with the Hospitality Management Department at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, is specifically designed to prepare students for transfer to a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management at a four-year college or university.